L.A. Unleashed

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Category: Pocket Pets

Texas exotic animal dealer accused of animal cruelty is now considered a fugitive

Global Exotics

Jasen Shaw, the Texas-based exotic animal dealer whose business was raided following animal cruelty allegations in December, is now considered a fugitive, the Dallas Morning News reports.

U.S. Global Exotics, the company Shaw operated with his wife, Vanessa, traded in hundreds of thousands of exotic animals and "pocket pets" -- about 500 species in all, including sloths, chinchillas, lemurs, hedgehogs, ferrets, snakes, turtles, lizards, amphibians and spiders -- since the company was founded in 2002. U.S. Global Exotics reported earnings in the millions during each of the years from 2005 through 2007, according to the Morning News.

More than 26,000 of the animals at the Arlington, Tex., facility were seized in the December raid, which was precipitated by a months-long undercover investigation by a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals employee. The investigator, Howard Goldman, provided photographic evidence and undercover video documenting the conditions at U.S. Global Exotics and later offered his testimony about the company in court.

A number of animals were either found dead by rescuers or died shortly after the raid. Jay Sabatucci, manager of animal services with the city of Arlington, reported finding animals that "were not fed, not fed properly, overcrowded and attacking each other. Some were in an environment not proper for them, such as snakes in a 72-degree room with a lamp over them, which is not enough heat and could cause them to die." 

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Your morning adorable: Guinea pigs form a rock band (sort of)

We recently marveled at YouTube user flybybutterflies' smart and well-trained hamster, who can run a tiny agility course (yup, like the ones for dogs, only smaller) without breaking a sweat.

This fine Friday, we're marveling anew at the success of flybybutterflies' positive-reinforcement training methods on typically untrained animals such as guinea pigs, hamsters and even a goldfish.

Jing Jing and Wilbur, flybybutterflies' talented guinea pigs, aren't just musically inclined, they also play basketball and dabble in agility.

Your morning adorable: Guinea pigs eat watermelon
Your morning adorable: Talented rabbit plays the piano

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: flybybutterflies via YouTube

Postal workers wondering about wiggling package bound for Puerto Rico find ferret

Postal authorities in Lynchburg, Va., discovered a ferret after checking out a package marked for overnight delivery to Puerto Rico that started moving on its own.

Postal workers contacted a postal inspector after they spotted the wiggling package.

After trying unsuccessfully to track down the sender, the inspector got a search warrant and the next day animal control officers opened the box.

Inside they found the ferret, which was accompanied by a cage, toys and food.

The Roanoke Valley SPCA named the ferret Stamps and put it up for adoption and this week, Craig Bradley and his wife took the ferret home.

They’re the cofounders of the Big Lick Ferret Shelter & Hospice.

-- Associated Press

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Your morning adorable: Hamster completes a tiny agility course

Color us impressed by YouTube user flybybutterflies' talented agility hamster.

Now, we've seen dogs excel at agility, a sport in which they run through an obstacle course filled with jumps, ramps and tubes. We've even seen an agility pig -- a species that, by many accounts, rivals the dog in the intelligence department -- and an agility cat. When we first saw an agility bunny, we were pretty surprised. An agility chicken nearly blew our minds.

Then came flybybutterflies' critters, which include not only the agile hamster above, but also a small tribe of his hamster friends as well as two guinea pigs and a goldfish. She trains them all -- yup, even the goldfish -- using positive reinforcement training.

The little guy above, if you're wondering, is running an obstacle course that's entirely made by hand -- the obstacles are primarily crafted with Popsicle sticks and non-toxic clay.

Bravo, flybybutterflies -- and bravo, hamster!

-- Lindsay Barnett

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Video: flybybutterflies via YouTube

Your morning adorable: Cat grooms friendly rabbit

Our cat-licking-(insert non-feline species name here) video kick continues Thursday with Ava, a rescued cat who's good pals with Nibbles, a Dutch rabbit.

According to the pair's owner, YouTube user bluetree3000, the little nips Ava makes are nothing more than "love bites," and in "bunny body language Ava's grooming acknowledges that Nibbles is the alpha bunny."

We like Ava already, but her story gets better: She's a rescue who was found with a swollen abdomen. A veterinary exam showed that Ava's swelling was the result of a gunshot wound; a bullet had become embedded in her body and caused a hernia to develop. Fortunately, Ava "had surgery to repair the hernia and is the sweetest cat we've ever known despite her horrible ordeal," bluetree says. Now that's a success story we can appreciate!

Your morning adorable: Cat licks friendly rat
Your morning adorable: Cat licks sleeping dog

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: bluetree3000 via YouTube

Your morning adorable: Cat licks friendly rat

Monday's adorable video showing a cat enthusiastically cleaning a sleeping dog started us on a bit of a mission to find other cat-loves-(insert non-feline species name here) videos. Our favorite so far: YouTube user aublet's video of Molly the cat and her good pal Chiquita the rat.

When the animals first came to live together, aublet explains, the cat was kept in a separate room whenever Chiquita and aublet's other rats were let out of their cage. One fateful night, "Chiquita broke herself and [the other rats] out of their cage and she woke me up by climbing on my face," aublet recalls. "I was terrified that Molly had hurt the others, but when I got up, Molly was just patiently watching the rats run around." Good kitty!

After that incident, aublet decided to let the cat interact with the rats -- only while they were under the supervision of a watchful human caregiver, of course. Molly and Chiquita became the best of friends and remained so until Chiquita's death last year. (R.I.P., little rat!)

Your morning adorable: Patient dog meets duckling
Your morning adorable: Gentle horse nuzzles cat

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: aublet via YouTube

Illegal animal sales continue in L.A.'s Fashion District

Lejla Hadzimuratovic of the Bunny World Foundation watches as Veronica Maldonado 

is arrested for selling baby rabbits at the corner of Maple Ave. and 12th St. in 

LA's Fashion District.

Despite the efforts of the LAPD and the Business Improvement District to eradicate illegal animal vendors from downtown L.A.'s Fashion District, the practice of selling live animals on the street -- unweaned baby rabbits, turtles and birds, among others -- continues.

On Easter Sunday -- perhaps a poetically appropriate day for a bunny rescue -- Los Angeles police officer Matthew Shafer, while completing routine rounds, happened upon a man rustling plastic in a van parked in a Wall Street garage. Suspicious, Shafer went to investigate -- and found that the van contained a whopping 118 turtles. In the van parked next to the one with the turtles, Shafer discovered 23 underage rabbits.

The situation is hardly an unusual one; illegal animal sales are a long-running problem in the area. Worse still, many of the animals sold there are babies too young to be taken from their mothers; others are sick or malnourished. Our colleague Carla Hall reports:

When animal services officials can certify that animals are in bad condition, their vendors can be charged with animal cruelty -- as was Raymundo Hernandez, the man Shafer arrested in the parking garage.

The confiscated rabbits were turned over to Lejla Hadzimuratovic of L.A.-based rescue group the Bunny World Foundation.

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Long Beach City College combats rabbit overpopulation on campus with humane measures

RabbitsLong Beach City College's Liberal Arts campus has long been a breeding ground -- quite literally -- for rabbits, many of which were abandoned by their owners, who decided they didn't want, or couldn't care for, the rabbits anymore.

At last count, more than 300 rabbits roamed the campus -- and that was several months ago. (The phrase "multiplying like rabbits" became a cliché for a reason, after all, so it's safe to guess that new babies have been born since the tally was completed.) So college staff are cracking down -- in a humane way, we hasten to add.

Their approach to dealing with the burgeoning bunny population is twofold: Trap and neuter the existing rabbits while warning would-be rabbit abandoners against the idea, and punishing anyone who drops off a rabbit despite the warnings.

The rabbits' arrival on campus, back in the 1980s, was innocent enough. A few jackrabbits are believed to have wandered onto the premises from the Long Beach Airport, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram. From there, things took a turn for the worse when owners started dropping their unwanted pets on campus.

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Baby bunnies rescued from Downtown L.A. streets


The bunnies sat in stacked cages on the downtown sidewalk. They nibbled on lettuce as passers-by stopped to pet them. How much? A young woman cheerfully named her price. ($20 is the going rate.)

"No photographs," she said, passing a hand in front of a rabbit as a photographer snapped pictures.

On a sunny Saturday, she scanned the throngs coursing along Maple Avenue toward 12th Street, en route to the Santee Alley shopping bazaar.

Suddenly, she gasped. She and other vendors whisked black garbage bags over the cages, grabbed them and anything else they could carry and scurried off.

In seconds, they were swarmed by half a dozen yellow-shirted Business Improvement District security officers and a Los Angeles police officer. A bucket of turtles ended up dropped in the middle of 12th Street.

Security officer Alondra Alonzo tussled with one vendor, wresting a bag of rabbits from her grip. The vendor, annoyed, walked off with a single rabbit.

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Your morning adorable: Rabbit eats a banana

We don't know what it is about small animals' eating habits that delights us so. But "delight" is about the only word we can use to describe our feelings about watching, say, a rabbit eating pumpkin, a sugar glider nibbling on an apple, a chinchilla savoring a raisin or a group of guinea pigs battling over a delicious cucumber.

Midow, the bunny companion of YouTube user KiwiPandaaa, loves nothing more than a banana treat -- and she's nothing short of adorable while chowing down on one. (According to the Humane Society of the United States, it's fine to give rabbits fruits and vegetables as treats, but sugary fruits like bananas should be given sparingly.)

Your morning adorable: Rabbit walks like a man
Your morning adorable: Talented rabbit plays the piano

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: KiwiPandaaa via YouTube


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